South Carolina Basketball: Previewing the Gamecocks' quest to win another SEC Tournament

Dawn Staley's South Carolina basketball team has won 7 of the last 9 SEC Tournaments. Can they make it 8 of 10?
South Carolina basketball mascot Cocky
South Carolina basketball mascot Cocky / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The SEC Tournament began in Greenville, South Carolina earlier this week, but South Carolina basketball fans haven't had to worry much about the early games of the tourney as the Gamecocks earned a double-bye to the quarterfinals.

After winning the SEC by 3 games and winning each game by an average of 26 points, many assume that Dawn Staley's team will waltz through the SEC Tournament bracket on their way to the NCAA Tournament. The road to fighting for another national championship will be a little tougher than that, however.

The Texas A&M Aggies knocked off the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the 8-9 game, meaning USC will face off against A&M in their first game. That game will tip off at 12:00 PM EST on Friday and will be shown on the SEC Network. The Bon Secours Wellness Arena is expected to have a heavy garnet and black-leaning crowd.

The Aggies have 19 wins on the season, and though an NCAA Tournament bid isn't going to happen without an SEC Tournament championship, Texas A&M is not a bad team. Joni Taylor's team plays really good defense as they average giving up just 59 points per game, and they are a top-5 team in the Southeastern Conference in rebounding, offensive rebounding, assists, and fewest turnovers.

Coach Taylor utilizes a 10-player rotation in which each player plays between 13 and 29 minutes per game. The starting frontcourt for the Aggies rivals the size of the Gamecocks' front line as Lauren Ware is 6'5" and Janiah Barker is 6'4". The duo combine to average over 4.5 stocks (steals and blocks) and nearly 16 rebounds. If they can get the Gamecocks in foul trouble, things might get interesting in Greenville.

That is about the only chance Texas A&M has of keeping things competitive, however. When the two teams met in January, Carolina won by 35 points as they dominated the post while Janiah Barker was out with an injury and Lauren Ware dealt with foul trouble. USC scored 56 points in the paint as they shot over 65% from the field.

That type of production doesn't seem likely to be replicated, but the Gamecocks will be heavy favorites in the game and should move on to the tournament semifinals.

If South Carolina basketball does advance, they will play the winner of Alabama and Tennessee in the semifinals. The Gamecocks would not play LSU or Ole Miss (the other two teams in the conference seemingly locked into an NCAA Tournament slot) until the championship game.

Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks will be the #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament no matter how things play out in Greenville; however, pulling off another SEC Tournament championship will allow the Gamecocks to continue pursuing history. Only four programs ever have gone undefeated throughout the entire season (UConn, 6 times; Tennessee; Baylor; Texas), and South Carolina basketball will be striving to bring that number to five this March.

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